HOOPS: Bulletin board material from Cal?

Washington State's meteoric rise to elite status in men's basketball caught many observers by surprise, but California forward Jamal Boykin came up with an interesting theory. As the Bears prepare for Thursday's game at WSU (7 p.m., no TV), Boykin tossed out some bulletin board material that will undoubtedly catch the attention of the Cougar Nation.

"I've heard some recruiting stories," Boykin told Bay Area reporters this week. "When they drive kids there, they'll have the windows tinted black where they can't see until they get there.

"They say the campus is decent, but all the farm animals or whatever you have to drive through to get there, that might be a little discouraging."

Wow. Boykin's dream world aside, the Cougars can only hope Boykin and all the other Californians on the Bears' roster grow discouraged about their own trip to Pullman when they hear about the snowstorm that's supposed to bury the Palouse on Thursday.

Recruiting and weather issues aside, the Cougars are most concerned about storming the court with the type of defensive intensity and execution that coach Tony Bennett says will be essential to stop the explosive Cal offense and Pac-10 scoring leader Ryan Anderson.

"I think he's one of the most underrated kids in America," Bennett said Tuesday at one of his weekly press conferences. "I think he's tremendous."

The 6-foot-10 Anderson can work inside or drill 3-pointers. The sophomore forward leads the Bears with 21.3 points, 9.7 rebounds (fourth in the Pac-10), 45 percent shooting on 3's (eighth) and 86 percent shooting on free throws (first).

When a reporter noted that Anderson's inside-outside scoring ability is similar to that of UCLA's Kevin Love and Oregon's Maarty Leunen, Bennett laughed and said, "Hopefully, we'll do a better job than we did with those guys."

Other Bears of note are 6-5 forward Patrick Christopher (16.5 ppg), 6-11 center DeVon Hardin (9.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.6 blocks) and quick little point guard Jerome Randle (11.7 ppg, 4.2 assists).

CAL RANKS IN the upper echelon nationally in a number of offensive statistics, and Oregon is the only Pac-10 team outscoring the Bears (80.4-79.3). However, only Oregon allows more points than Cal in the Pac-10 (74.6-72.1), and the Bears' inability to stop opponents at crunch time has resulted in a series of narrow defeats.

The ninth-place Bears (11-7, 2-5 Pac-10) have lost three straight and five of six, and they hit the road for five of their next seven games after playing just four away games thus far. The ninth-ranked Cougars (17-2, 5-2), who played five of their past seven games on the road, now come home for a four-game homestand.

"It's going to be good to get back to Pullman," point guard Taylor Rochestie said, "but that doesn't say it's going to be any easier. We have two hard games coming up."

THE COUGARS OWN the only unblemished home record in the Pac-10. Not only are the Cougars 6-0 in Pullman, but they're 3-0 in Spokane and 1-0 in Seattle in quasi-home games.

The California game and the Feb. 21 contest with Arizona State are the only remaining home games that are not sold out. Tickets are long gone for Saturday's noon showdown with 14th-ranked Stanford (16-3, 5-2), which will be televised on FSN.

Brook Lopez leads the Cardinal with 17.8 ppg and 7.9 rebounds after recovering from first-half foul trouble to score all 23 of his points in the second half of Saturday's win over Cal. The other 7-foot Lopez twin, Robin, averages 8.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks.

Anthony Goods is an effective 3-point gunner who averages 12 points. Stanford has won three straight and five of six to climb into a second-place tie with the Cougars, one game behind UCLA.

WSU RANKS FIRST in the latest NCAA Division I statistics (through Sunday) with 53.9 points against, but Stanford is sixth 57.5. The Cardinal leads the Pac-10 in rebounding at 39.6; WSU is last at 29.7, partly because the Cougars limit possessions and are shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor.

Bennett praised the defense of 6-10 Robbie Cowgill in Saturday's one-point win at Arizona State, and Bennett said he expects Cowgill to remain in the starting lineup ahead of 6-7 Daven Harmeling. Bennett changed WSU's starting lineup for the first time last Thursday by inserting Harmeling for Cowgill, but Bennett went back to Cowgill at ASU.

"We need him on the floor," Bennett said. "We need him defensively more than we need offense. Yeah, he needs to get better offensively."

Harmeling has shot the deep ball superbly of late, and he scored 40 points in WSU's 2-0 sweep of the Bears last season, but Bennett said, "I challenged Daven and Aron (center Aron Baynes) to improve defensively this week."

  • Rochestie leads the Pac-10 in assists (5.2) and ranks second in assist-turnover ratio with a 3.0 mark that ranks 10th in Division I. Rochestie has 37 assists and five turnovers in the past six games. Derrick Low continues to lead the Pac-10 in 3-pointers made per game (2.9).
  • Washington State's RPI ranking is 10th, second in the Pac-10 to No. 7 Arizona (UCLA is 12th). The Pac-10 ranks second to the Atlantic Coast Conference in conference RPI. WSU's Kyle Weaver easily leads active Pac-10 players in career assists (398) and steals (162). Cowgill ranks fourth in blocked shots (109), and Low ranks second in 3-pointers made (183, seven behind Washington's Ryan Appleby) and seventh in points (1,062). Weaver is next at 974, followed by Anderson at 922.
  • Anderson is on track to become the seventh Cal player to win the Pac-10 scoring title in the past 15 years. Only two Cougars have led the conference in scoring since the old North and South divisions were dropped in 1955-56: Steve Puidokas in 1974-75 and Don Collins in 1979-80. Low leads the Cougars and ranks 12th in the league with 14.1 ppg.

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